By Shitile Mbayansa, Abuja
Believe it or not, Nigeria’s agricultural sector is on the upswing. Her former Minister of Agriculture and architect of her latest agriculture revolution, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, got the World Food Priźe; 72 tonnes of her yams leave Lagos today for the United Kingdom; and bolstered by demand for cashew, government plans to site cashew processing factories in Kogi, Benue, Enugu, Imo, Benue, Kogi, Kwara and Oyo states to reap N2.4 trillion from an export demand of 300,000 tonnes.
The flip side of the coin, however, is that the country’s booming population has to be checked to enjoy the benefits of the expected boom from agriculture.
Perhaps why the federal government is encouraging voluntary contraceptive use, and signing MoUs to have them readily available.
The nation’s Federal Executive Council (FEC) yesterday approved the signing a Memorandum of Understanding, (MoU) with the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, UNFPA, for the procurement of contraceptive in the country for four years.
Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewale, told journalists Wednesday after the Council meeting: “Council received memoranda from the Federal Ministry of Health. One has to do with the renewal of the Memorandum of Understanding, MoU between the Federal Ministry of Health and the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, UNFPA.
“This MoU has to do with the procurement and distribution of contraceptive commodities across the country. The Federal Government has a policy of free distribution of contraceptive commodity and services across the country and we have renewed the MoU today to last for the next four years between 2017 and 2020.
“We will also continue to provide effective voluntary contraceptive services across the country.
Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbe, Adesina’s successor and farmer driving the Agric revolution, also announced an ambitious move to export beans to India.
“These things (export of agric produce) are coming because Nigeria is beginning to focus on non oil export. Once you can diversify your economy, if something goes wrong in one sector you can hang on to the other.
“The Indians are asking us for beans, all categories of it. The market in India is a 100billion dollars (market), when the Indian Vice President came here he asked me to visit so we could talk.
“For us to go abroad and not find Nigerian yams in the market, it is an embarrassment. Because Ghana is targeting $4billion of yams in the next three years and if they can do that, we who are the masters of yam production have no business lagging behind.”
“We don’t even consume all the yams we produce here because most of it is lost to wastages because of poor technologies in preservation.
“We are going to use solar coolers in yam markets and yam producing areas to keep the temperature at 14 degrees Celsius, not frozen but to keep it at that temperature so that it can be good all year round and can last up to two to three years in the containers.
“Essentially, we are making this point because we are diversifying the economy, we are talking about economic recovery and growth and we will have to export whatever is needed from Nigeria by other countries so we can earn more foreign exchange rather than expend everything we have on importation.
“If they want yams we will sell yams, if they want pepper we will sell pepper, if they want ginger we will sell ginger. Just like we buy so much from them, it is time for them to buy from us. I assure you this is how the economy of Nigeria we are dreaming of is going to recover.
“The market in agric is huge, the prospects are large. Its about improving on our strategies at home and getting all our states to get involved.”
On health, Adewale announced after FEC also annouced plans to put National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members on the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS)
“The other memorandum taken at today’s meeting has to do with how we will prevent unnecessary death among youth Corps members across the country.
“Council approved the memo that henceforth, we will include NYSC members in the National Health Insurance Scheme across the country. This will guarantee access to quality care across the country, prevent unnecessary death and also ensure our youth Corps members receive the highest attainable level of care across the country.”
The premium for corps members is to be paid by government.